Voxtok aims to redefine the Hi-Fi music experience
By Paul Ridden
June 21, 2014
Headquartered in the US, with R&D in Montpelier, France, Voxtok is currently putting the final touches to what's described as a new generation of Hi-Fi equipment. The company's Hi-Fi system is made up of a VXK Capsule that acts as both audiophile-grade music player and home music server, a mobile device app for remote control and more, and a dedicated cloud service for music library backup and playback while out and about. Two generations of prototypes have been developed, and a pre-production run of alpha units secured. Now Voxtok is looking for crowdfunding success to get its end-to-end solution into the hands of music lovers.
The Voxtok system promises easy access to high quality tunes in a multi-faceted Hi-Fi system. It combines aspects of multi-room music systems like those from Sonos with high end digital music hubs like the Minx Xi or Muso, while also throwing in network attached storage, cloud integration and app-based control and access. At its heart is the VXK Capsule.
This stylish and elegant music player is reported capable of supporting most digital music file formats up to a resolution of 24-bit/192 kHz, both lossless (FLAC, WAV and DSD , for example) and compressed (MP3 and OGG). It comes with a minimum of 1 TB of integrated HDD or SSD storage. The unit doesn't have its own speakers, but outputs via analog (RCA/XLR) or digital (BNC/SPDIF) connections to active or amplified speakers.
In addition to local playback, the AirPlay compatible Capsule features an Ethernet port for direct connection to a home router, and is also capable of wirelessly receiving music files from, and streaming to, any DLNA/UPnP device or server thanks to included Bluetooth 2.1 and 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi.
The current version is built around a main board developed in-house, based on a Freescale i.MX6 chipset, and an audiophile-grade Digital Analog Converter (DAC). The development team is testing other hardware options ahead of production, and has revealed that the final version will include dual Wolfson WM8741 DACs, a HDMI connector, and a number of high-end components.
Users can add their own music to the player's library by connecting an external CD reader to the USB port at the back and making use of the Capsule's multiple encoding CD ripper functionality. Though there looks to be more than enough room in the device itself, the developers decided against including a built-in CD unit.
"Not everybody will use the CD reader," Voxtok founder Joel Reboul told us. " Moreover, this mechanical device can reduce the life duration of the Capsule. At the moment, we’ve preferred the option of an external CD reader, but we’re open to change that point depending on market feedback."
Though the VXK Capsule does include simple pause/play operation via the logo on the front, the VXK app for smartphone, tablet, computer, Smart TV or set-top box is used for complete control. The app runs on iOS, Android, Mac OS, Windows, Windows Phone and Linux platforms and is used for remote control and music management for the Capsule. It can also be used to play music on the smart device running the app.
The Capsule is set to auto backup its content to the company's VXK Cloud, which is based on Amazon's Glacier Cloud infrastructure. This also gives users the option to access their personal music libraries while on the move, up to 320 kbps MP3s can be streamed from the cloud servers straight to a mobile device (though you'll likely want to check your data allowance before taking advantage of this). Folks who buy into the Voxtok system will get up to 5 years of free cloud service usage, after which charges will be levied.
More cloud services and features are to be added later, the first of which looks set to be the qobuz online music subscription service (which was largely unknown outside of its native France until recently). This will give users access to a rich catalog of CD-quality tracks via the VXK Capsule. qobuz is not yet available to US customers, but that may change before the end of this year.
The final part of the Voxtok music system is a DIY kit based on a Raspberry Pi board and a Wolfson audio card. "It’s a small and open copy of our VXK Capsule," explained Reboul. "Of course, the Raspberry Pi is not able to support some features that require a lot of CPU, but most of the basic VXK Capsule features can be supported."
Voxtok is currently working on a round of funding to support its global release strategy, but says that enough funds are already in place to start manufacture on a local scale (in France and the UK, for example). To expand beyond Europe, the company has launched on Kickstarter.
DIY kits are pitched at US$200 a pop, but an early stab at a full system will see backers needing to part with at least $1,290 (which includes a VXK Capsule with 2 TB of HDD storage in black or white, full cloud backup via the VXK Cloud service and 25 GB of streaming for 1 year).
The campaign ends on July 18. If all goes according to plan, backers can expect their units to start shipping in December. A commercial launch is planned for Q1 of next year, for a yet to be determined retail price.
The Voxtok pitch video is below.
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